Garcia & Watney Share Halfway Lead in Barclays

While first-round pacesetter Padraig Harrington faltered, Sergio Garcia and Nick Watney surged to the top of the leaderboard in The Barclays. The duo stand at 8-under 134 in the $8 million event - the first in the four-tournament FedEx Cup Playoffs, which began Thursday at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Garcia, who won the previous PGA Tour event, the Wyndham Championship last week in North Carolina, for his first victory in four years, carded a 3-under 68 at the par-71, 7,468-yard public course. Starting on the 10th tee, the 32-year-old Spaniard started slowing with one birdie on his front nine and then added three more - against a bogey - on his home half.

"Definitely a nice round," Garcia told reporters later. "Yesterday it was a very nice round, but it was obviously playing easier than today. The greens were very, very firm out there, so it was difficult to hit it close to some of the pins, even from the fairway. But I think that I had a very nice day out there, made some nice putts, not only for birdie but a couple for pars and a chip in." (See below for Garcia's full post-round interview.)

Watney followed up his opening 65 with a 69 that included four birdies, four bogeys and an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. Despite his up-and-down round, the Sacramento native was happy with his play. "I hit the ball very nice all day, and it was weird, I made some really nice putts and I had some three putts," said the 31-year-old. "Kind of a live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword type of day. But overall very pleased and looking forward to the weekend."

Tied for third at 135 are a couple of grizzled veterans, 49-year-old Vijay Singh, who shot a four-birdie 67, and 46-year-old Bob Estes, who carded a six-birdie-one-bogey 66. Estes, a four-time Tour winner whose last title came 10 years ago in the Kemper Insurance Open, told the media that he's been swinging better of late.

"I started hitting the ball a lot better the last few days," said the Texan. "I missed my last two cuts in Canada and the tournament at Sedgefield, the Wyndham. Got right after it on Saturday, started practicing to get ready for the Playoffs, and found a little something, and I continued to work on that and kind of fine tune it. I'm setting up to the ball probably better than I ever have, and I'm hitting it much more solidly and straighter than I ever have. That's a big part of it.

"You've got to be hitting fairways and greens to play this place, so I've hit most of the fairways, most of the greens, and then I switched back to putting with the left hand below the right a couple days ago, also, so my putting has been pretty solid, as well."

Singh, who opened with a 68, is pleased with his position heading into the last two rounds, especially on a difficult course like Bethpage Black. "The golf course is really tough. It kind of got all - I don't know what the mindset was after yesterday when I got to the clubhouse and seen all the low scoring. It kind of threw everybody off. But yesterday off noon the conditions got a lot tougher, and this morning, too, it was firmer than, I guess, yesterday morning. I think they shut the waters off. It's playing harder. The wind is swirling around. I'm happy to have finished what I did."

Sharing fifth at 6-under 136 are Aussie John Senden (68) and Pat Perez (70), while another stroke back are Rickie Fowler (70), John Huh (67), Gary Christian (71) and Tiger Woods (69). Though he was in discomfort Friday, saying later that he had a lower-back issue, Woods did well to shoot 2-under considering that he had two straight bogeys at the start of his round.

When asked about his back, Woods said, "Must have slept funny on it. Soft beds at the hotel, and woke up this morning with it stiff. You know, as I warmed up, it got progressively worse, and then you saw what happened on the golf course . . . it hurt all day."

It appeared Woods's most difficult movement was bending over and extracting his ball from the cup, which he confirmed later. "Well, it was like a section of movement, so it didn't hurt standing up, it didn't hurt at the bottom of a squat, but it was the somewhere in between there it was going to catch. You know, it would grab just before impact, so you'd kind of expect it, so I could get through that. I've been through that kind of stuff before, so I know what it feels like."

Tied for 11th at 4-under 138 are Martin Laird (68), Henrik Stenson - who shot the low round of the day, a 6-under 65, K.J. Choi (71), Ryan Moore (69) and defending champion Dustin Johnson (71).

Another stroke back at 139 are Chris Kirk - who shot a 71 even though he aced the 190-yard par-3 17th (his eighth hole), Michael Thompson (68), Ian Poulter (71), Brandt Snedeker (69), Justin Rose (72), Bo Van Pelt (69), Carl Pettersson (66), Fredrik Jacobson (68), Adam Scott (69), Harris English (69), and Harrington, who followed up his opening 64 with a 75.

Beginning on the 10th tee, Harrington got off to a terrible start with five bogeys on his first eight holes. After making the turn in 5-over 40, the Dubliner finally carded his first and only birdie on his 17th hole. On Thursday, the three-time major champion played the back nine in 6-under 29.

Masters' champion Bubba Watson carded his second straight 70 and is in a big group sharing 27th at 2-under 140. Also at 140 are major winners Ernie Els (72) and Charl Schwartzel (69).

After opening with a 68, Phil Mickelson went backward with a 74 to fall to even-par 142. He shares 62nd with - among others - the two highest-ranked players in the world; Rory McIlroy had a 73 and Luke Donald a 74.

The weekend cut was set at 1-over 143. Among those qualifying for the weekend right on the number is Robert Castro, who made the second ace of the day. It came on the 154-yard 14th, which helped give the 27-year-old Texan - who also got an eagle on the fourth - a 4-under 67.

Those not qualifying for the weekend included 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and last year's PGA winner, Keegan Bradley, who both shot 2-over 73s to end up at 144. Also heading home are Graeme McDowell and Davis Love III. Colt Knost began the second round only five back of Harrington but ballooned to a 79 Friday.

Both Jason Bohn and Matt Every withdrew before the start of the second round. Every cited a neck injury, while Bohn has a bad back.

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After signing his scorecard, Garcia met with reporters for the following Q&A.

Q. Good round. Could you go over your highlights?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, definitely a nice round. Yesterday it was a very nice round, but it was obviously playing easier than today. The greens were very, very firm out there, so it was difficult to hit it close to some of the pins, even from the fairway. =But I think that I had a very nice day out there, made some nice putts, not only for birdie but a couple for pars and a chip in. Highlights: I birdied 13, hit a good tee shot, 6 iron, lay up, and then hit it about five feet from 85 yards or 84 yards I think it was and made that. Then I chipped in on 2 from just over the green from about 50 feet, 45 feet. Then I bogeyed 3, hit a terrible shot, probably the worst shot I hit all week, and couldn't manage to make par.

But then I hit a good tee shot on the next. I hit a nice 6 iron, almost got to the green. It bounced back into the bunker, hit a good bunker shot to about four feet and made it. On the next hole, I probably hit one of the best shots I hit all day today. I hit a nice drive and I hit a very good 8 iron from 171 I think I had to a tough pin position, front pin position. I hit it about six, seven feet behind the hole and made it. Then I had a good chance on 7. I hit a good putt but missed that unfortunately from about four or five feet. Then I had a great save on the last for par. I hit it just a little too far left with the tee shot into the bunker and had no chance of going for the green. I tried with a 5 iron, hit it in the front bunker, blasted out, long bunker shot, blasted out to probably 12, 15 feet and made a great putt to finish.

Q. Is this as good a stretch as you've had since when?

SERGIO GARCIA: Probably since 2008. Well, no, I shouldn't say that. Last year. It wasn't here, but it was last year in Europe, yeah, when I won back to back. Not only that, I played very well at the U.S. Open last year, then I went to germ my and almost won there. Then I played nicely at the British Open. I had a good PGA, where I finished 12th - I think I made double on the last and I finished 12th. And then I had a good run at the end of the year in Europe. Yeah, since last year probably.

Q. What is it you're doing better?

SERGIO GARCIA: It's a bit of everything. Obviously we know how much confidence helps in this game. But it's feeling better out there, feeling more comfortable with what I'm doing, being able to more or less do the right things. Obviously getting a few breaks my way obviously helps. But overall I think if you add all those things up, it helps.

Q. Do you think walking off yardages yourself is giving you a more informed, comfortable preparation for golf right now?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't think so. The only good thing that I have about this is that I'm making my decisions, good and bad. So am I more aware, no. When I have a professional caddie, obviously he tells me everything that I should know. Am I more committed to pretty much all my shots? Yes. And when I didn't do it today, it showed up on the third hole. It's a hole that I don't feel very comfortable on it, and it shows up. But other than that, you don't have to read more into it.

Q. How much of a coincidence is it that your best play this year certainly has come with you sort of managing your game as opposed to having that other person?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I don't know. Golf is a funny game. When you think that you have it under control, it kicks you down, and then all of a sudden it gives you something to love it again, I guess. It's funny, that's the way it goes. Like I said, the good thing about this is that I feel like I'm more committed to some of the things I'm doing. Obviously if I'm not hitting the shots, then it doesn't help. But at least if my commitment is better - you know, sometimes I think my mistake is that sometimes I seem to trust more what I hear than what I feel. We all know how much of a feel player I am, and I should kind of trust those feelings a bit more. These couple of weeks, they're kind of helping me do that, kind of go with what I feel and just try to trust my own feelings a little bit more than sometimes if somebody tells me to do one thing and I just do it for lack of confidence in myself.

Q. When you're playing this well, can you put into words what it feels like going on a run like this?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I mean, it's easy to answer that. Obviously everybody knows, not only in the game of golf, but when you're doing what you love doing and you're doing it well, it's obviously more fun than when you're not. That happens to all of us. Obviously if you're writing and you write something and you're not happy with it, with what you wrote, it doesn't come out the way you want it, obviously you're not going to be happy. So it's the same for everyone. I think that if you manage to do what you love doing and you do it well, it's easy to enjoy it. But at the end of the day, we all try to come back, even when we're in hard times, try to come back and get over them.

Q. How much are you enjoying golf right now?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it's good. It's good fun. Obviously if I wasn't, I wouldn't be here. It's great, but I'm also looking forward to hopefully taking a little break and getting ready for some of the tournaments that I have coming up.

Q. Is playing with instincts and making decisions, does it take you a little bit back to when you were a junior player even?

SERGIO GARCIA: It does feel funny. I was talking to Adam yesterday when I was doing all my yardages and stuff. It does feel like you're kind of back to your amateur days when you were doing all the things and kind of stepping out all the yardages and all those things. It is kind of funny. But sometimes it's good to go back to the beginning and get a little feel for what you used to do.

Q. Are there any good memories coming back here?

SERGIO GARCIA: Obviously that helps. I've done well at this golf course the two U.S. Opens we've played, so that definitely helps. And the first two days have been good. There's going to be two very hard days coming. The course is getting extremely difficult out there. It's just a very thin line between a good shot that goes 10 feet and a good shot that goes over the green, and then you have almost an impossible chip. Hopefully I'll be able to play well the next couple of days like I've been doing and keep myself in the position I am and have a chance on Sunday.

Q. Of all the good shots you made today, which one pleased you the most?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know. It's difficult to say. I think the drive on 4 after the terrible shot I hit on three was huge, to be able to get a shot back there after that, after chipping in on two. I think that the second shot on the 5th hole was probably one of my best shots today. But I managed to hit a good amount of good shots. Obviously yesterday it was much easier to hit the ball closer because you didn't have to worry so much about the slopes and hitting over the green and things like that. But I managed to play fairly well, and my lag putting was very good. It just ended up very nicely.

Q. Is there any one aspect of your game that you're particularly pleased with?

SERGIO GARCIA: No, I think I'm pretty much happy with everything that is going on.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.